John Edwards has dramatically tightened the race for the 2009 Atlantic Championship title after scoring the maximum number of points available from the Harrah's Autobahn Grand Prix double-header.
Edwards completed his weekend sweep with another lights-to-flag victory in the #36 Newman Wachs Racing entry on Sunday, his third win of the season enough to close on Simona de Silvestro for the series lead. The 18-year old started from pole in both races of the doubleheader – the first two poles of his Atlantic career – and earned a total of 42 points from the weekend. He now trails championship leader de Silvestro by just five points with five races remaining.
“We had a problem in the first practice session [during Thursday's promoter test day] and only got two laps but, in every session since then, I've been quickest,” Edwards said, “In this race, I was quickest on every lap until the last one, maybe two laps, when I lifted a bit and Simona did a 2min 05.6. That was the only lap that anyone was faster than me, and my engineer kept coming on the radio, telling me 'that's a good pace, you can slow down there and just hit your marks'.
"I told him 'I am hitting my marks, but I'm cruising a little bit, just to be safe'. The car was just so hooked up this weekend. Even this race compared to yesterday's race, we just tweaked it a little bit and it was even better today. The car was a dream to drive. I have to thank the team a lot, because I couldn't have done this alone.”
One day after finishing third in the first race, de Silvestro earned her sixth consecutive podium result with second place in the #78 Team Stargate Worlds car. As she did on Saturday, de Silvestro chased Jonathan Summerton for much of the race, but benefited when the American's alternator failed. She finished 12.654secs behind Edwards, while Summerton was relegated to eleventh in the final race standings.
“Especially after yesterday, because I did a mistake at the start, it was a little bit better,” de Silvestro said, “Today, it was kind of the same race as yesterday, because I was stuck behind Summerton for most of it. I tried to push him every lap, but he never did a mistake, so I got really lucky that something broke on his car and I finally could go by him.”
Summerton's mechanical failure also led to joy for Tonis Kasemets, who picked up his first podium of the year for Polestar Motor Racing. The Estonian - who now lives 60 miles up the road in Mundelein - spent the entire race with his mirrors full of rookie Frederic Vervisch, but he managed to keep the Belgian driver at bay throughout.
“A podium is always nice,” Kasemets said, “That's why we're here. We want to win the race, but it's good to come with a third. We got a little lucky, but it's better to get lucky than smart any day. Yesterday, [Vervisch] got me on the start and we were joking that I have to get him today on the start. The chips fell my way - I started in his position and got him on the start. He pushed me really hard all race long and, on some parts of the racetrack, I was better than him and some he was better than me, but the Newman Wachs cars and Simona, they were in their own league, as always.”
Vervisch wound up fourth for Genoa Racing, and now leads Borja Garcia in the rookie of the year standings.. Garcia finished fifth, one place ahead of defending series champion Markus Niemela, who brought the #1 Jensen MotorSport machine home in sixth after dropping out of race one with a mechanical problem after completing just one lap.
Frankie Muniz earned his second 'Hard Charger' bonus of the season for seventh place, while team owner Eric Jensen was a late addition to Sunday's field, finishing tenth overall in the #13 Jensen MotorSport machine.